LONDON: Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has immediately turned his attention to matching fellow Italian Carlo Ancelotti by winning the ‘Double’ in England after his record-breaking team were presented with the Premier League trophy at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
The west London club, crowned champions of England for the sixth time in their history, enjoyed a party after two goals from substitute Michy Batshuayi and strikes from Willian, Eden Hazard and Pedro saw them come from 1-0 down to beat Sunderland 5-1 on an emotionally-charged last day of the Premier League season.
The celebrations cannot last too long, however, because Conte’s side, who became the first team to win 30 league games in a 38-game top flight season in England, have only six days to wait until playing the FA Cup Final against London rivals Arsenal at Wembley on May 27.
If Conte can inspire Chelsea to victory there he will match the achievements of Ancelotti who guided Chelsea to a Double in 2009/10.
However, they will need to re-focus quickly against an Arsenal side looking to make up for the disappointment of missing out on a place in the Champions League.
“This is the real danger for us — to think that this season is finished,” warned Conte.
“It’s important to celebrate as we did today, enjoying this moment with our families and fans, and celebrate this title because it wasn’t easy.
“But as of tomorrow, I’ll try and push a lot to explain that this season could become not just great but fantastic if we are able to win the FA Cup. It’s a great opportunity to win the Double.”
– ‘Fire in our soul’ –
Conte fears his side could miss out, however, if they let complacency set in.
“If you ask me who you think the favourites are now, I think it’s Arsenal,” he said.
“They only have this possibility to find a good season after a win in the FA Cup. For this reason, we must find motivation and find in ourselves the right anger.
“The game will be very difficult. I’m not talking tactically, I’m talking about motivation, the right fire in our soul and our hearts. If we have this in the same proportion as Arsenal, we have the possibility to do the Double and win. Otherwise we risk a lot.”
Chelsea had already been confirmed as champions long before facing Sunderland but the way they came from behind to win in style after Javier Manquillo had put Sunderland ahead in the third minute summed up their season.
The afternoon was not without its emotion, either, on what was Chelsea captain John Terry’s farewell to Stamford Bridge after announcing he will be leaving this summer after 22 years at the club.
“I’ll come back here one day, supporting the team for years to come,” he promised as he addressed fans afterwards.
“I’ve been very fortunate to work with some unbelievable players and managers throughout my career. I’m thankful to every single one of them. We all have to thank Roman Abramovich too. I’d like to thank him and all the board. He’s the best owner in world football.”
Terry completed his speech by embracing Conte and starting a chant of ‘Antonio, Antonio’ which Abramovich, up in his private box in the West Stand, joined in with.
Not even Jose Mourinho in his first spell in west London got that kind of adulation from the man who employed him.
Ancelotti, of course, was sacked the season after winning the Double despite his popularity with players and fans, so nothing is certain.
For Sunderland, any talk of titles and Doubles is a distant dream as they prepare for life in the Championship.
“We are gutted about the season, but now we have to get over it quickly and get ready to go again,” said Sunderland manager David Moyes, the former Everton and Manchester United boss.